Saudi woman photographer snaps up major honor

The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
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The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
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The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
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The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
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The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 July 2021

Saudi woman photographer snaps up major honor

Saudi woman photographer snaps up major honor
  • Yomn Al-Monla’s focus on Arabian horses brings artistic tribute from global elite

JEDDAH: A Saudi woman photographer has joined international photography’s elite after receiving a coveted artistic distinction from the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) for her images highlighting the beauty of Arabian horses.
In its message to Yomn Mohammed Al-Monla, the federation said that the “Artist FIAP” honor was given “for her efforts, work and technique in the domain of photographic art and in recognition for the eminent services she has showcased.”
The award recognizes a photographer’s artistic qualities and mastery of technique.
FIAP, based in Luxembourg, represents almost 1 million photographers and has more than 85 national associations as members.
Al-Monla, who lives in Jeddah, told Arab News that she is looking forward to receiving the certificate, badge and photographer’s card confirming her distinction.
“For me, as a female photographer, this is a great achievement and a serious distinction. I am honored and grateful to receive this recognition. I dedicate this achievement to the great support I get in my country, Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Monla decided early in life that she wanted to pursue a career that combined creativity with her love for horses and the desert, and went on to become a certified photographer.
He first attempts in 2014 took place on the equestrian fields in Jeddah, gaining her third place in the Photo Knight competition organized by the Equestrian Club in the Makkah region. She was honored by the former governor of Jeddah, Prince Mishaal bin Majid.
“This victory opened my eyes to the world of horses and drew my attention to these beautiful creatures,” she said. “From here, my love and passion for photographing horses emerged.”
Al-Monla’s major source of inspiration is the renowned photographers working around her “who strove hard and reached the highest level of photography.”
She hopes that Saudi artists and photographers eventually will gain recognition not just because they are Saudis or women but for their work.
The ambitious photographer said that her main goal is to establish a Saudi academy that offers the latest training and workshops on photographing horses and the desert.
In 2020, Al-Monla, a member of the International Photographic Union and the American Photographic Society, took first place in the night photography category as part of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization’s first e-photography competition.
“I had been entering the same event for three years before I was able to take the winning photo with ‘Moment of Light.’ It was a memorable moment for me,” she said.
Her winning photo also brought her the gold medal at the 1st Gulf International Photography Circuit 2021 held in Kuwait and the bronze medal at the Chennai International Salon 2021.
The Saudi photographer’s love for horses turned her hobby into a “passion project” that now takes her around the world.
Al-Monla has taken part in more than 50 international events under the supervision of FIAP and the American Photographic Society. She has won several awards and been included in the AFAN International Exhibition for Photography, a Saudi Embassy National Day exhibition in the US, and a 2014 World Cup exhibition in Italy.
She has won 17 prizes in various competitions with 123 of her photos.
“I hope, one day, to capture night images during the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation’s participation in international competitions,” she said.


WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
Updated 16 min 6 sec ago

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
  • Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased”
  • Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world

DAVOS: Saudi Arabia will continue to invest in new sectors and diversify its economy to achieve sustainable growth, ministers from the Kingdom told the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday.

In the latest WEF Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) published on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia ranked 34 among more than 100 countries for development, sustainability and resiliency in industry — a 10-mark jump from pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking at the Saudi Arabia Outlook session in Davos, Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased.”

She added: “We managed to amend the regulations and policies. We are now among the top 10 countries in the environment of business, travel and tourism.”

The Kingdom’s TTDI score improved in three main sections since 2019: The business environment with an 11 percent rise, tourism demand pressure and impact with an 8 percent rise, and the human resource and labor market with a 7.3 percent rise.

Princess Haifa attributed the growth to the government placing travel and tourism at the center of its recovery plans. Support was quickly provided to ensure that the industry’s development stayed on track, she said.

“The prioritization of the travel and tourism industry from the government perspective is why we managed to do so well during the pandemic and recover. We quickly gave support to accommodations, we protected the jobs in that sector and we focused on training as well. We managed to train 110,000 people last year alone, which is all contributing to the way we are moving forward,” she added.

Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim said that the Kingdom will continue to “make access to talent easy in this upward journey of our economic and social growth.”

Bridging the digital divide and harnessing local talent has been at the core Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha told the WEF session.

In line with the reform plan — put forth by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the Kingdom has made significant strides in its goal of diversifying the economy. In 2019, the Kingdom announced that it would open its doors to tourists, and has since introduced protocols to ease travel regulations.

“This has been the thesis for Vision 2030: How we can leverage talent and technology to improve inclusion, sustainability and growth. And on inclusion, we want to make sure that we close down the digital divide and make sure that there is equity in everything that we do,” Al-Swaha said.

As the Kingdom opened its doors to international travelers, it was also quick to reform laws on women’s empowerment and gender parity.

“We are very proud that we have jumped from 7 percent women’s empowerment in tech to more than 29 percent, which is higher than the EU average, the G20 average and even the US average. I just came back from Silicon Valley, where they said that they are at 27 percent.”

However, despite media reports that Saudi Arabia would allow NEOM to operate under its own set of laws and thus allow alcohol, the Kingdom has stayed adamant about changing its regulations to attract foreign tourists.

Princess Haifa said: “We are going to continue with our current laws. We have been doing very well and we have actually been outperforming globally when it comes to tourism with what we currently have to offer today. There is a lot to go around without introducing anything new.”

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world.

With the Saudi National Investment Strategy in effect, Al-Falih said that the plan is “leading us to diversify the economy by unlocking some of the new, exciting sectors that have so much potential and so much competitiveness.”

The strategy aims to boost net foreign direct investment flows to $103.46 billion annually by 2030, positioning the Kingdom as the 15th largest economy in the world.

According to the ministers, the progress in Saudi Arabia will also act as an accelerator for regional growth and inspire healthy competition — making the Kingdom and neighboring countries a hub for investment and travel.

Al-Falih said: “I believe that the Kingdom’s rise in its economic and competitive performance actually helps the competitiveness (of neighboring countries). It allows companies and enterprises, and the governments of those countries to integrate with a larger global economy in Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Ibrahim said: “I think competition is essential for us to push the bar upwards, but coordination is also necessary. There is a lot of coordination and collaboration that happens behind the scenes. There is a lot of camaraderie between policymakers within the region that gives us these assurances.”


The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement

The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement
Updated 25 May 2022

The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement

The 19th Regular Session of OIC-IPHRC to draw up closing statement

JEDDAH: The 19th Regular Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission has been meeting at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah from May 22 until 26.

On Tuesday it held a thematic debate entitled “The Role of National Human Rights Institutions in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the OIC Countries.”

During the session panelists, OIC representatives and observer members of non-OIC countries have been discussing the human rights situation in the world and in the OIC countries, Islamophobia, the right to the development of women rights and more.

Marghoob Saleem Butt, IPHRC’s executive director, told Arab News that every year, they choose a prominent subject to discuss: “These sessions are an exchange of interaction on a certain subject between countries.”

Over the years, the commission has been vocal in condemning hate-motivated acts against Muslims worldwide in such places as Palestine, Kashmir, Nagorno Karabagh, India, Sri Lanka, France, Western Thrace, New Zealand and the Central African Republic.

Dr. Haci Ali Acikgul, the OIC-IPHRC’s chairperson, said: “The Commission recognizes NHRIs are a vital part of the national human rights protection mechanisms. By raising awareness, providing advice, monitoring and holding authorities to account, NHRIs play a central role in mitigating modern-day human rights challenges of discrimination and inequality as well as novel issues such as the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights of affected individuals.”

The commission considers that practical cooperation with civil society groups, especially NHRIs, can help to increase its visibility and operational outreach for the performance of its mandated tasks.

This week OIC-IPHRC signed two memoranda of understanding aimed at technical cooperation between the NHRIs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Uzbekistan to undertake joint activities of mutual interest and strengthen institutional capacities.

The first MoU was signed by Abdulaziz Abdullah Al-Khayal, vice president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, and the second one was signed by Mirzatilla Tillabayev, first deputy director of the National Human Rights Center of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Al-Khayal told Arab News that every state and organization has its own definition regarding human rights, which can focus on women, children, people with disability, criminal justice, and so on. “We believe that such MoU contribute to the growth of national capabilities by exchanging knowledge between the two countries and develop the sector nationally and internationally,” Al-Khayal said.

In front of more than 30 OIC representatives and observers, presentations on the theme of the session were delivered by the five panelists. They were Dr. Eng. Mohammed Saif Al-Kuwari from Qatar, vice-chairman of the National Human Rights Committee and member of the Governance Committee of the Asia Pacific Forum; Vladlen Stefanov, head of the National Institutions, Regional Mechanisms and Civil Society section of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Mazhar Hussain, director of the Economic and Social Research Department at the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Center for Islamic Countries in Ankara; Ahmad Taufan Damanik, chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights of Indonesia; and Mohammed Sabri, adviser to the Cabinet of the President of the National Human Rights Council in Morocco.

This was followed by an open discussion between the commissioners, representatives of OIC Member and Observer States, and their NHRIs.

Dr. Aboubacarr Jah, The Gambia’s deputy permanent representative at the OIC Saudi Arabia, said: “Human rights are crucial and imperative. However, it’s time to look at human wrongs and correct them.” He said the Republic of The Gambia was calling for justice for the Rohingyas of Myanmar.

“Once human rights are mentioned it is difficult to bury the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he said.

“Monstrous human wrongs have been perpetrated against Palestinians for 74 years today. Not 74 days, weeks, or months but 74 Years! How long is this inhuman, atrocious, and abhorrent act of inhumane aggression by the Israeli government going to go on?” he asked.

Jah stressed the importance of Muslim Ummah bonds: “United we are strong and shall win,” he said.

The commission regularly invites NHRIs of all OIC Member States to participate in its activities and encourages them to collaborate with their respective governments to hold joint activities.

Acikgul said, “I hope that today’s discussion will inspire the Member States to further intensify their commitment to strengthen the capacities and capabilities of their respective NHRIs with the overall aim of nurturing human rights-respecting and preserving societies.”

A joint IPHRC and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights workshop titled “The Role of NHRIs in International Human Rights Mechanisms” was held on Wednesday.

The commission will issue an outcome document on the topic of the thematic debate based on the week’s discussions on the final day of the session.


Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test

Saudi students prepare for PISA 2022 test
  • The OECD administers the PISA exam every three years

RIYADH: Saudi students are preparing to take the PISA test, an international performance metric conducted by the OECD to measure educational levels in 15-year-olds around the world.

The test will be completed virtually by 600,000 students from 80 countries.

It is the second time that the test will be conducted in the Kingdom after the initial launch in 2018.

From May 29 to 30, the PISA will be offered electronically in general education classrooms, focusing on computing and linguistic abilities.

The PISA is a set of studies administered every three years to a random sample of students at the target age to assess their abilities in reading, science and mathematics.

The application of the PISA in the Kingdom falls within the framework of the efforts of the Ministry of Education to improve graduates in the educational process. The results of the test will provide useful indicators to improve the Kingdom’s education system.

Prof. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Juhaimi, president of the National Institute for Educational Professional Development, said that the electronic professional development program for mathematics, science and reading for teachers will improve the skills of PISA students. The program allows educators to transfer their experience to students using more influential methods.

Al-Juhaimi told Arab News that one of the program’s most important features is its “great flexibility,” since teachers can attend the program at any time and from any location.

Prof. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Juhaimi, president of the National Institute for Educational Professional Development. (Supplied)

He added that the program’s training modules are designed to help teachers acquire targeted skills in mathematics, reading, and natural sciences to improve their performance, which reflects on the level of students and contributes to supporting student learning outcomes.

The OECD administers the PISA exam every three years. The Saudi Ministry of Education will oversee the test.

Al-Juhaimi said that e-training is an opportunity for teachers in the targeted disciplines because it is self-motivated, not limited by place or time, and is available to any teacher of the three subjects.

Furthermore, teachers are provided three chances to do unit-related assessments and an overall review of the program based on their specialist sector to assist self-learning.

Al-Juhaimi said that the regulations of NIEPD, issued in November 2019, support the professionalization of public education and raise the level of educational practices in the Kingdom.

However, he said that there are numerous challenges confronting mathematics and science education. These include the need to modernize standards and identify the training needs of each specialty.

Al-Juhaimi added that one of the most important enablers for teacher development is the integration of training into the school curricula. Another enabler is linking the school curricula with teacher training programs within the school, and linking professional development with performance evaluation as well as promotions to ensure demand. Supporting electronic training, encouraging self-evaluation and strengthening professional learning communities for teachers is also important, he said.

He said that the institute’s projects for teacher development include establishing scientific forums, developing the workforce, training school leaders and launching programs for educational professional development practitioners.


Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum

Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum

Saudi FM meets Ukrainian counterpart on sidelines of Davos forum

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan met his Ukranian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of his participation in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Saudi Press Agency reported Wednesday.   

During the meeting, the ministers discussed the latest developments of the crisis in Ukraine. 

Prince Faisal emphasized Saudi Arabia's support for everything that contributes to de-escalating the conflict, protecting civilians, in addition to negotiations that would reach a political solution, as well as all international efforts to resolve the crisis politically.

On Tuesday, Prince Faisal called for global dialogue and cooperation during a panel at the World Economic Forum, which tackled the global geopolitical outlook in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“If we learned anything on COVID-19, it is that we need to focus on cooperation, we need to continue to look toward avenues to foster cooperation,” the top Saudi diplomat said. 


Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again

Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again
Updated 25 May 2022

Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again

Weather forecasters warn of more sandstorms coming as dust shrouds Riyadh again
  • Back-to-back sandstorms blanket region, sending thousands to hospitals with breathing issues

RIYADH: Weather forecasters warned on Tuesday that more sandstorms were on the way after Riyadh was again shrouded in choking dust.

The National Center for Meteorology issued weather alerts for the Saudi capital, extending to the Madinah region and the governorates of Yanbu, Al-Rais and Yanbu Al-Nakhl. There will also be dust storms in AlUla and Khaybar.

“Dust particles in the north, center, and southern and interior regions will persist,” center spokesman Hussain Al-Qahtani told Arab News.

More than 1,200 people this month have gone to hospitals in the Kingdom suffering from breathing difficulties, but the phenomenon is region wide. Severe sandstorms have blanketed parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Kuwait for the past month. The storms have sent thousands to hospitals and resulted in at least one death in Iraq and three in eastern Syria.

Sandstorms are typical in late spring and summer, spurred by seasonal winds, but this year in Iraq they have occurred nearly every week.

The Iraqi Health Ministry stockpiled canisters of oxygen at facilities in hard-hit areas.

In Syria, medical departments were put on alert as the sandstorm hit the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Iran shut down schools and government offices in Tehran last week as a sandstorm swept the country.

It hit hardest in the southwest desert region of Khuzestan, where over 800 people sought treatment for breathing difficulties. Dozens of flights out of western Iran were canceled or delayed.

For the second time this month, Kuwait International Airport suspended all flights because of the dust. Video showed largely empty streets with poor visibility.

“It’s a region-wide issue but each country has a different degree of vulnerability and weakness,” said Jaafar Jotheri, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Al-Qadisiyah in Baghdad.